I made this for my Christmas dinner party (and to shoot it, duh). My main goals were for it to be a focal point in the room that feels wild and festive, not terribly “holiday,” but not too wedding either. I’m not a florist, but I’m a serious lover of all flowers (like, ALL), and after ten years of styling them on sets and making arrangements, I felt confidant that I could pull this off, even though I’ve never made one before.
So I went to the wholesale flower market, which most large cities have, that are open to the public in the last hour or so of selling. Some are strict about it and won’t let you in unless you have “a badge,” some aren’t. In LA, if you park above the flower market in the above ground three-story building and take the escalator to the main floor you can actually bypass where they ask you for your wholesale badge (enter on Maple, between 7th – 8th streets). Once I tried to sneak into the Portland wholesale mart and was totally unsuccessful. The reason I come here instead of a florist is because of price (it’s about 1/3 of the price of florists, understandably because florists have to mark things up to stay in business), but mostly because of the variety. A lot of florists order the same thing over and over, and while they change things up within the season, they don’t have the time to really go down and pick out what is super beautiful right now. If you live in LA, go to Moe’s (it’s a fortune, but great flowers) or even better, go to the flower market at Sunset Junction that is right next to Intelligentsia (and shares the building with Cafe Stella). It has AMAZING flowers — the weird ones that most standard florists don’t have.
Here’s what I bought for the wreath:
1. Ferns. Some wild and some more traditional. Bostons, maiden hairs, and some really dark bushy guys that stayed alive for a long time. These were the “filler” and these brought the winter vibe. Ask the florists for some that are heartier (not like maiden hairs that are so fragile).
2. Garden Roses. Now garden roses are different from regular roses because they aren’t mass produced and instead they have way more petals, way more color variation, and they have multiple heads on them, as well as some closed buds, some open buds, making them all look more organic and real. Often regular roses look so fake and generic, but garden roses look just so natural. (They are on the two middle shelves in the pic.) If you don’t have the option of garden roses, then try to get some roses that are open and some still closed. If they are all the same amount of open or close they’ll look generic. Ask the florists for any really open roses. They might have in the back, and often they do and will sell for around $1 a piece.
3. Peonies. Obvs. But the main reason I bought them was for scale. I didn’t want a bunch of small flowers mixed in with the ferns or they would get lost. I needed some large hits of color and pop, and peonies were the only flowers big enough to hold this 27″ wreath.
4. Random greenery. I don’t know what it is called but the greenery on the top shelf to the right is cheap and their tips looked like buds so they were easy to fill vertical space.
5. White mums. Normally I’m not the biggest mum fan, but these white mums were soooo petal-y and full and reminded me of huge big polka dots … plus, they were inexpensive.
What you don’t want to buy:
1. Flowers that are very vertical and skinny. These don’t take up any surface area and will get lost or you’ll need a crazy amount of them to fill out the wreath.
2. Flowers that are really small, like daisies, wilf flowers, etc. Unless you want to do the same flower over and over and make it really uniform (or a pattern), then the small ones will get busy and dinky and expensive.
I bought a 27″ floral wreath form from one of the wholesale stores downtown. Moskatels sells them for around $25. This is made of oasis (the green stuff that soaks up water) so it will keep the wreath alive for a while. I soaked it for five minutes in the shower before starting and that made the wreath last for three to four days. The ferns lasted longer, just the flowers didn’t make it. (I think you could take it down and re-water it to help it last longer.)
I think this size was the perfect statement size and any smaller would have been a pretty big waste of time and money. So just go big.
That is my fantasy bathtub, by the way. Just overflowing with flowers.
I started up top with a cluster of flowers and started shoving the buds with a five-inch stem into the sponge-y wreath form, pretty randomly. Later, I filled in with the ferns. You definitely don’t want things to be perfectly spaced or measured out because it will look fake. These are flowers, let them be organic.
Make sure you don’t cut off the leaves of the peonies or roses near the bud. You want those to make them look more real by leaving some of the leaves in there. (Or cut the leaves off separately and shove them into the wreath.)
Don’t put the same two flowers next to each other, and don’t put anything in a line. Keep it looking “cluster-y” and random for the most organic look. Make sure to fill the outside and inside as well, and don’t go sparingly if you are going for the wild look. If you want a simple look get one flower and use it over and over again so the whole wreath is filled with it, but for a look like this make sure to add enough to make it really look like a statement.
I knew I didn’t want it symmetrical, so I did one cluster around 11 o’clock (if the wreath was a clock) and one cluster 4/5 o’clock. This kept it balanced, without looking too forced.
That’s my assistant Bearcat. She helps me by chewing on the leaves and then throwing them up and often I step on that puke in the morning on the way to make coffee. It’s a real treat. But she is VERY good at sitting next to me and looking at me oh so adorably. She gives me encouragement by thinking, “Mom, you are really good at moving things around the house and giving me so many boxes to sit in.” And that kind of support just can’t be bought.
I kept going and going, adding and adding, making sure it looked full, random and organic. If I had to do it again, I would do it pretty much the same, except probably even more ferns. And if you are on more of a budget (again, this probably cost me around $120 or so, with the form being around $25), I would do just wild ferns, but mix in different ones of different shades so it looks organic and handmade. Often I feel like real greenery equally distributed can look artificial.